Lessons I Learned Wedding Planning, Part 1

Today I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I learned while planning my wedding. I’m not an expert on weddings, nor a professional in the wedding industry. But I did just spend two years planning my own wedding, and I can tell you I learned a lot from it. I’ve both read and written a lot about weddings and wedding planning, something I’ll continue to do going forward to share the things I learned with brides-to-be. As you can see from the title, I’ve labeled this post as “Part 1”. Though the wedding has passed by the time you’re reading this post, I’m writing it a few days before. And I know that when I sit down to write Part 2, there will be so many lessons learned on the day of that I can’t possibly imagine right now. For now, enjoy Part 1 of the lessons I’ve learned while wedding planning.

Lessons I Learned Wedding Planning, Part 1

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1. Start early. When Dave and I got engaged, we set our date for two years away. It was difficult picking what seemed like an imaginary date in the future to have our wedding, but it was definitely the realistic and responsible thing to do. But that didn’t stop be from starting the planning right away. And you know what? It payed off. There wasn’t a single vendor I was interested in who had to turn me away because they already had my date booked. And in some cases I was able to sign a contract at 2013 or 2014 prices instead of 2015 prices.

It also helps reduce the stress of wedding planning so much. We were really able to take our time and not look at a check-list, worried we were falling behind. Here’s how it went. In September, I bought my dress (some people will tell you not to buy that early because you’ll fall in love with something else. I solved that by not looking at any other dresses, and I’m more in love with my dress than I was then). Then I didn’t do anything for awhile! In November we booked our venue/caterer, and took a couple of months off for the holidays. We didn’t book the next vendor until January, and the next one a few months later. By the time we hit the one-year mark, the vendors and large details were already worked out and I had an entire year to focus on DIY projects and small details.

There were definitely downsides to having a long engagement, but there were zero downsides to starting to plan as soon as I could. Whether your engagement is six months or two years, get an early start.

2. Consult previous brides. There have been a few other couples in our life who were either planning their wedding at the same time as us or had gotten married in the few years leading up to our engagement. These women have advice to share. Listen to it! It was a cousin who had gotten married four years before our engagement who suggested we have a wedding the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. It would never have occurred to me to get married on a Sunday, but we had the benefit of of paying discounted Sunday prices AND none of our guests having to work the next day because of the holiday. So it was basically like a cheaper Saturday!

3. Choose the most important things to splurge on. Unless you have an unlimited wedding budget (in which case I would be jealous), you can’t splurge on everything. Choose a few things that are most important to you and make them your splurges. Figure out a way to cut back on everything else. We chose venue, photographer and honeymoon as ours. We went over budget on those, and cut elsewhere. We found a low price on an awesome DJ, which made that part easy. We didn’t spend much on flowers, decor, cake, or paper.

4. Know when to DIY. NOT all DIY projects are cheaper. They just aren’t! Know which ones will save you money versus which will cost you the same amount, but increase your stress level. The things that you can DIY can save you a lot of money. I designed our Save the Date cards and invitations in Canva myself and printed them for cheap at a local printer. We paid a fraction of what many people spend on invitations. I also bought silk flowers and made the bouquets myself. They look the same to me (because I don’t care much about flowers) and cost maybe $100 for all 6!

5. Know when to compromise. If there is something wedding-related that you disagree with your or mother-in-law where they care a LOT and you don’t care that much, it might be a time to give in. It’s an important day for them as well. Throw them a bone once in awhile.

6. Know when NOT to compromise. People are going to have a lot of opinions on your wedding. People from parents, to coworkers, to odd distant relatives. While it’s important to compromise, it’s also your wedding and it’s important to hold onto the things that are important to you. The only person who’s opinion is as important as your is the one you’re marrying.

7. Stick to your budget. When you get engaged, you and your fiance should decide on a number you feel comfortable spending. Try your best to stick to that. There are a lot of pretty, shiny things in the wedding industry that someone will convince you you have to have. Well unless that something is a marriage license, you don’t have to have it to get married. You and your fiance know your financial situation best, so it’s okay to say no to things you don’t need. One magical day is not worth a loan the price of a new car.

8. Don’t obsess. I had a two year engagement. If I turned every day and every conversation into all about the wedding, people would have gotten sick of me very quickly and I would have gotten sick of my wedding very quickly. Planning a wedding is a big deal, but it’s not the only nor the most important thing going on in everyone’s life or yours! Don’t let wedding planning take over your life and don’t let if have an adverse reaction on the relationships in your life.

I hope these tips can help you. Some I learned from making the mistake myself and others were mistakes that I missed, but noticed in others. Wedding planning can be an amazing experience, and it’s important to focus on the best parts of it!

The Final Days of Wedding Planning

Final Days of Wedding Planning

Well guys, this is it. After two years of wedding planning and 8 months of writing about my wedding planning on this blog, we’ve only got a few days left and this is my last Wedding Wednesday post! (I’ll still post wedding planning tips, there just won’t be posts following my own planning!) I’m stuck at work still today and tomorrow, but then Friday the wedding weekend begins! We’ll start with some wedding prep (ie a trip to the nail salon). Saturday is the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, and Sunday is the big day.

Our life has been a flurry of planning lately. I’ve virtually been taken over by a slew of to-do lists. Most of them are long. And scary. The biggest tasks lately have been the seating chart, final meetings with vendors and putting together the wedding day timeline, and buying tons of last-minute items that we’ve forgotten. Dave had this bachelor party last weekend and I had my final dress fitting! I’m going to be exhausted after a day of dragging around that bad boy, but it’s going to be worth it!

Strangely, it still hasn’t hit either of us that we’re getting married in just a few days. Maybe it won’t until the wedding day? Or until I’m walking down the aisle? Who knows.

The wedding day isn’t even here yet, but I can finally see all of our day coming together as we finish up the last few details. It’s been a lot of work, to say the least. Luckily I’ve got a fiance who wasn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his wedding planning hands dirty.

And even if it doesn’t all come together and the day is a disaster, that steak, open bar, and marrying the most amazing guy ever will sure make it the best day of my life.

Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

For your wedding day (or weekend) to run smoothly, it’s important to create a timeline so everyone is clear where/when events are happening, and so that it’s easy to stay on track. Your wedding day is going to be a busy one, and any sense of order you can get will make a huge difference. Being only a week and a half away from the wedding and having had our final meetings with all of our vendors, I am in full force finalizing the timeline. Here are some tips I can offer to far.

Creating a Wedding Day Timeline

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+Consult with your vendors. Your hair stylist knows better than you how long it will take to do hair for six bridesmaids, just like your photographer will know better than you how long pictures will take. Make sure to talk to all the vendors before setting anything in stone.

+Skip the gap. Often times a couple will have the ceremony early in the day and then have several hours before the cocktail or reception. People are becoming less tolerant of this. Have a later ceremony and take pictures during cocktail hour.

+First look or no? Obviously the tradition is for the groom to not see the bride before the wedding, but many couples and ditching that tradition in exchange for a first look. You’ll have to be ready earlier, but it saves time after the ceremony. For the record, Dave and I are sticking with tradition. He won’t see me until I’m walking down the aisle!

+What type of dinner are you having? This will definitely play a role in determining your timeline! If you’re having a large wedding or a buffet dinner, you’re going to want to budget extra time.

+Leave wiggle room. If one thing runs late, you don’t want it to throw the entire day’s schedule off drastically. Schedule more time than you need for everything.

+Don’t street about changes. I guarantee not everything on your wedding day is going to start at the exact minute designated on your timeline. That’s okay. Don’t let it stress you out and throw off your mood for the whole day.

+Trust your vendors. They are the experts. They are professionals. They have done countless weddings before and I guarantee several of those had the timeline go out of whack. Defer to them and trust that they can help straighten things out.

For those who have been married, what are you best timeline tips?

Wedding Wednesday: Planning Your Rehearsal Dinner

Tips for Planning Your Rehearsal Dinner

If you’ve planned or been in a wedding, you know that they rarely consist of one lone event. Sometimes there’s an engagement party. There’s usually a shower (or more than one!). Then you’ve got the bachelor and bachelorette parties. Other than the wedding itself, the rehearsal dinner is the last event left to plan. If you’ve never been involved in a wedding, you might not be totally familiar with this concept, so let’s start with the basics.

What is a rehearsal dinner?

Weddings often have a rehearsal the day before to ensure everyone involved knows where they’re supposed to be and when. Typically this includes the wedding party and immediate family. The rehearsal dinner is held afterward as a way to thank the people closest to you, both for attending the rehearsal and all the support they’ve given through the entire planning process. It’s also a great way to give the families and wedding party another chance to get to know one another better.

Who is invited?

The rehearsal dinner should definitely include the wedding party and immediate family (parents, siblings). Also make sure to include the significant other of anyone in the wedding and the parents of any child attendants you might have (flower girl and ring bearer). Some couples also choose to include out-of-town guests, though this isn’t required.

How formal should it be?

The great thing about the rehearsal dinner is that it can be as formal or informal as you’d like! Anything from a catered, plated meal to a backyard BBQ is fine!

Is it required?

It isn’t necessarily required that you have a rehearsal dinner, because it isn’t required that you have a rehearsal! I would say that if you’re having a rehearsal and asking your family and wedding party to attend, it would be nice to host a dinner for them afterward.

Who hosts?

I think it’s time we all move past the out-dated traditions of who is “supposed” to pay for and host certain wedding events. If the groom’s parents (traditionally they hosted it) offer to host the event, that’s great. If not, the couple can host it themselves.

Timeline

I would recommend looking for a location to hold the rehearsal dinner 4-5 months before the wedding. It’s better to be safe and book early than have a difficult time finding somewhere that’s available. We’re just holding ours in the party room of an Italian restaurant, but they still booked up quite a bit in advanced.

Sent the invites about a 1-2 months before the event so people can plan ahead, especially those coming from out of town.

Typically wedding party and parent gifts are presented at the rehearsal dinner, so come prepared with those!

If you have any other questions, or some advice of your own, leave them in the comments!

Wedding Wednesday: Choosing the Perfect Vendors

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Vendors

When you’re planning your wedding, picking your final vendors is one of the most difficult and important decisions you’ll make. Ultimately, these are the people who are responsible for making sure your wedding runs as smoothly as possible, from the time you begin getting ready in the morning until the last song finishes at the reception. When Dave and I first got engaged, most of my wedding-planning energy was focused on research local vendors to make sure we would have the absolutely best for us. Because of the time I spent and the steps I took, I’m confident our wedding day will run as smoothly and as stress-free as possible. Here are a few tips to follow when choosing vendors of your own.

1. Budget and Prioritize

Before you begin booking anything for your wedding, you should sit down with your fiance and decide upon a firm budget. To do this, you’ll need to figure out generally what costs are in your area for vendors, food etc. When you’re decided on a budget for each vendor, decide which are most important to you.

Are you into scrapbooking and plan to cover your walls in wedding pictures? You might decide to allocate extra money toward a photographer.

Planning do DIY your bouquets? You won’t have to budget for a florist then.

What I recommend, and what Dave and I did, is sit down together and choose three priorities. We each chose one, and then had one that was a priority for both of us. My priority was the photographer, and Dave’s was catering. Together we chose the honeymoon. That meant anything that wasn’t on that short list was going to have a smaller budget. We were able to find a fantastic DJ running a deal to fit into our budget, but I did DIY flowers and we’re setting up our own camera in lieu of a videographer.

2. Do Your Research

I ultimately spent hours online researching vendors and reading reviews on just about any site I could find them one. If there was a vendor I was interested in, I read reviews on Yelp, Google, The Knot, Wedding Wire, etc. I left no stone un-turned.

3. First Impressions

When you contact a vendor for the first time, take note of the exchange goes. If they take a week to return a message, they might not be as reliable as you’d like. If they seem rude or annoyed, they probably aren’t going to be very pleasant to work with.

4. Meet In Person

It is 10000x easier to know how you feel about a vendor if you meet them in person. This will help leaps and bounds in knowing if their personality and style mesh well with yours.

5. Trust Your Gut

Going along with #4, trust your initial gut impression about them. This was definitely how we made a final decision on our vendors. All of them have an awesome personality that we immediately knew would mesh well with ours. We continue to notice this every time we meet with our vendors. Every time we see our officiant for premarital counseling, we note that we would totally be friends with him in real life if he were local. When we did our engagement session with our photographer, we had an absolute blast and laughed so much.

Having vendors that are a good personality fit is going to dramatically improve your experience on the big day.

6. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

Vendors know that couples have budgets and quite often, they’re willing to negotiate their prices or packages to fit within that budget. Obviously you shouldn’t expect a $10,000 photographer to negotiate within your $2,000 photography budget, but certainly try within reason. I was able to negotiate both our caterer, photographer, and DJ to a lower price!

7. What’s Right for One Isn’t Right for All

Obviously some vendors are just better than others. But that doesn’t mean a vendor that’s right for one person is going to be right for you. Each vendor you find is going to have a different personal style and it’s important to find one that can share your vision. Just because your best friend loved the photographer she used for her wedding does not mean you’ll have the same experience! When you find the right vendor, you’ll know!

Wedding Wednesday: Where I Am In Planning

Wedding Wednesday

Because I was already more than half way done planning my wedding when I started this blog, most of my wedding planning posts haven’t necessarily followed my own wedding plans (they process. They’ve all been about something I have addressed during my planning without corresponding with the timing of my actual planning. As much as I love writing my Wedding Wednesday post (they are some of my favorites!), they  aren’t as personal as I would like them to be. So this week, instead of sharing my planning tips and inspiration, I’m going to update you on where I am with my wedding planning.

All of the major vendors were booked a year ago. The venue was the first thing done. The photographer and DJ followed shortly after. My dress has been purchased, my favorite purchase so far! No hints, because I don’t want to ruin it for Dave! We’ve also chosen our wedding party.

After the major vendors, we’ve finished a lot of the more minor details. The bridesmaids attire has been chosen. We’ve chosen our decor for both the ceremony and reception. The decor will be simple and bright, indicative of an outdoor spring wedding. The bouquets made of silk flowers, have been made We recently bought our wedding rings!

Just a few weeks ago we did our food tasting, which I think was Dave’s favorite part so far. That is, until we have our cake tasting in a few weeks!

We’ve finished other minor elements here and there. Overall, we’re most of the way done.

We’re lucky in that wedding planning hasn’t been the stressful endeavor it stereo-typically is. I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed the process so far! Yes, there is pressure to choose the perfect vendor. What if the online reviews are fake? Will they fit the tone of our wedding? And finding the perfect wedding dress among the thousands of options available? It seems impossible. But it isn’t. And if you’re in the midst of planning your own wedding and you’re overwhelmed, remember that. None of it is impossible. It will all get done. Just breathe.

Dave and I still have four months left of wedding planning. It’s gone quickly, so I’m going to do everything I can to cherish the last months. I’m hoping to continue to update you on our progress!

If you’re planning your wedding and have any steps you’re stuck on, let me know! I’d be happy to take requests for future Wedding Wednesday posts!